Back to school reporting

So it’s back to school today! Please let us know how things went at your school.  Did your building experience cuts to staff? Who was missing? Were remaining staff able to carry the load? How about the students? Did they have a great first day?  Transportation? Were buses on time?  And teachers – please know that we are very aware of the extra burdens you are all carrying this year due to so many cuts to support in your classrooms.  We all appreciate your extra effort for the children of DeKalb!

About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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254 Responses to Back to school reporting

  1. dekalbite2 says:

    That is Ms. Tyson’s current job title – created when Dr. Atkinson was hired.

  2. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Dekalb school watch

    Six Sigma is not required. There are other alternatives.

    From the job posting:
    “Six Sigma certification, PMP or other project management certifications preferred.”

    I have no idea as to Ms. Tyson’s certifications, however, the Project Management group is under MIS.

  3. Dekalb Observer says:

    Instead of back to school, Clew was back in court:

  4. Tit For Tat says:

    I am just curious…has America’s Choice been thrown out or is it still used in some Title 1 schools?

  5. @ Terry you state…” COULD IT BE…. Atkinson is pulling people out of the golden palace and moving them out to the buildings to make it look like she’s trimming the fat? ONE I KNOW OF MYSELF is a person in “transportation”, new to our schoolhouse, but has NOTHING to do with the buses. Huh??? WHY do these people need to be in the school houses? WHERE did these people come from? They have nothing to do with teaching. How many of them are there? Please, if you know what I am talking about, ……enlighten me!”

    During last weeks Board meeting Ms. March reported that the Central Office employees would be assigned to the schools for the first two weeks of school. This staff would be utilized to assist with some of the shortages as well as assist with gathering “warm Body” count data. If I understood correctly the staff would also be required to reconvene every day for an hour at the end of each school day to perform assessments.

    It was during this presentation, that I understood that Superintendent Atkinson would also be a part of this process- which is why I found it rather humorous, that we at Stephenson High School got a hired photographer who told us he had been hired by the Superintendent to take pictures of the first day of school activities. Apparently she changed her mind over the weekend and sent him in place of her service hours. That’s not being made up by e, those words came directly out of the photographers mouth.

    Our Receptionist sent the photographer to our Principal so that he could be guided accordingly…
    So don’t be alarmed- you will be seeing these strange people in your building through the end of next week.

  6. no name says:

    dekalbite2@August 14, 2012 at 8:48 PM – you pointed out how much America’s Choice at DCS cost, then you said “Meanwhile student achievement in our Title 1 schools steeply declined.”

    I do not have the data handy, but I am pretty sure your phrasing is not correct because some Title-I schools have done better with America’s Choice. Please be careful with how you phrase that, since I don’t want to see DCS successfully attack the messenger (you) instead of addressing the points you raise!

    Also, when talking how Title-I funds are spent, I suggest pointing out that those funds come from all of us that pay federal taxes… so when DCS squanders that money, the waste should be of concern to everyone, not just Dekalb County residents.

    You are on the right track when you point out how much money is being squandered on “Success for All”. As I have said in earlier posts, I think SFA is crap and that SFA’s own website shows that it does not match the Common Core Standards.

    I expect that we will soon start hearing complaints from teachers forced to use SFA…. especially from the 5th grade teachers who are forced to waste 2 hours a day teachers material that is written at the 2nd grade level.

  7. no name says:

    It occurred to me that SFA is a reverse initialism:

    Atkinson Flimflams Schools

  8. dekalbite2 says:

    @no name
    “I do not have the data handy, but I am pretty sure your phrasing is not correct because some Title-I schools have done better with America’s Choice.”

    I do happen to have the data handy.

    The number of DCSS Title 1 schools making Adequate Yearly Progress declined steeply in spite of America’s Choice and the Instructional Coaches supporting this program. DeKalb student achievement must be compared to other metro systems including demographically comparable systems because in the end our students will be competing with other metro students for college seats and decent jobs. At the end of the day, more Title 1 schools should have been making Adequate Yearly Progress than not making Adequate Yearly Progress for what we spent on this program.

    Look at the steep decline in Title 1 schools making Adequate Yearly Progress just from 2009 until 2011 (the state has not posted the 2012 data yet). This was after DeKalb had used America’s Choice for at least 5 years and some progress in Title 1 schools making AYP. Our rate of achievement for Title 1 schools making Adequate Yearly Progress was the lowest in metro Atlanta:

    Perhaps if that $95,000,000 had been invested in highly qualified teachers that directly instructed small groups of struggling students, we may have seen a difference in these figures.

    The problem with these expensive educational programs is there are no quantifiable objectives set for them and no benchmark dates set to see if the objectives are being met. Measurable objectives should be set for any educational program, benchmark dates for meeting those objectives should be established, and the results should be published. Taxpayers paid $95,000,000 for a program that has not one shred of evidence publicly offered as to the efficacy of that program for DeKalb students.

    If you can supply a credible link that shows the effectiveness in quantifiable terms of America’s Choice and/or the Instructional Coaches, please include it in a comment.

  9. Terry says:

    Dear ole DCSS is still handing out paycuts and furlough days!!!!!

  10. Terry says:

    @ Denise McGill… THANKS for the update. Hum, though.. wondering if they will be used at the end of the year to take care of inventory??? HA… I doubt it. Job is too complicated.

  11. dekalbteacher says:

    Forty-plus kids in many classes at Lakeside. The rooms won’t hold that many desks, so we have kids in chairs or kids sharing a desk. Not sure how I will ever give a test!

  12. Terry says:

    Update… CTSS position was disolved and in it’s place is now the ITT position (Information Technology Technician). These people had to go through a job interview (NOT by an outside source of unbiased members) and a test (scored by whom?) before they were rehired and around 40 were cut. Yesterday, the “lucky” ones received an email from HR (YES, I said an EMAIL) telling them that their pay would be cut by more than $3400!!!! When these ITTs received the phonecall from HR back in June, they were asked if they would accept the position at their current rate of pay. Now they get a paycut 6 days into work. HOW is it legal to target ONE group for a paycut?
    Update… have you noticed that there are no regular ED paras in the classrooms? They have all been forced to move into Special Ed classrooms and schools. I am certainly not trying to say anything against Special Ed, but most of these paras NEVER applied for Special Ed para positions and have never worked in Special Ed. They have never had any classes or training to prepare them for what to expect and how to best care for Special Ed students.
    Not a good situation in dcss at all!

  13. concernforthekids says:

    We have a class with 48 students in our middle school.
    I’m sure we will receive a few more teachers in the next week to fix the overcrowding.
    We had 5 teams for 6th grade last year and now we have 4 teams for 7th grade this year for the same student population. That increases class size by 20% by reducing the teachers.
    The students per class has increased much more than +2 per classroom.
    Let’s try and get an accurate count of our per student class size and report back.
    These are items for our school councils to report. Every school council meeting starts with the principal giving a student population and absentee report. We should also request a class size report. How many classes / teachers per grade and what is their class size.
    This will speak volumes.
    Make sure to vote next Tuesday!
    It’s time for a change!


  14. Louise Bell says:

    Dekalb is “reassigning” people left and right. I have spoken to two employees today that just received emails regarding reassignment. This is not a stabilizing factor and it takes time to learn a school and how it functions. There seem to be a lot of personnel decisions that are being made without any consideration for the strengths/characteristics/specific certifications of the people involved. In both cases, I don’t think the principal was even consuIted before the email went to the employee. I know that cuts have to be made and the county has to pay for the wrong that was going on for too long but I fear that Principals are being undermined and given little say-so when it comes to their personnel.

  15. dekalbite2 says:

    @Louise Bell
    ” I know that cuts have to be made and the county has to pay for the wrong that was going on for too long but I fear that Principals are being undermined and given little say-so when it comes to their personnel.”

    The BOE members and the inept leaders of the school system are not paying for their mistakes. Rather, students and taxpayers are paying for the wrong decisions of the BOE members and the past administrations’ leadership, many of whom are still in place.

    Encourage your neighbors and friends to vote in this upcoming BOE election for BOE members who want to be held accountable for their actions.

  16. Dekalb Mom says:

    Not only has German been cut for all grades at Kittredge (including a middle school year of 6th), they also lost social studies teacher and science teachers and class sized are much larger. The fact that they have not yet removed the German teachers from the website does NOT mean they are still there. Believe me they are gone. I hate the lottery too. I think they should replicate Kittredge and have enough seats for all who qualify. I hate any kind of class or division or regional warfare and that is what this website seems to be all about lately. Has there been a change of leadership? I am dismayed and may stop checking it. Starting to seem like a biased forum.

  17. And no – there has been no change of “leadership” here. You are free to post your thoughts. In fact, you are free to write a post and submit it for publication. We do appreciate people being as respectful as possible though. And certainly, you can understand people’s outrage at the inequity in spending — however — as we continue to point out as the moderators of this blog – it is our belief that the system administration is creating this dissension among parents and stakeholders on purpose. If we continue arguing amongst ourselves, we might not notice that they still have plenty of room to cut at the top and small programs that can be consolidated. In fact, right now, we are very concerned that all of the “RIFs” coded as central office are merely regular employees like maintenance or groundskeeping. The true CO RIFs may be being replaced with brand new people holding brand new titles, but the same expensive paycheck or hired back as expensive consultants (per recently approved policy by the board for Atkinson to spend up to $99,000 without seeking board approval).

  18. Ned says:

    Interesting short piece in the AJC says DCSS overspent by $34 million. I was just wondering how much we paid “into” (i.e., lost) to “Equalization” most recently. I know the AJC did an article a few months back on what receiving counties got (e.g., poor rural Gwinnett pocketed $43 million, a siginificant decrease from prior years) but I was wondering if anyone knew how much the paying counties put in.
    This is no excuse for the fiscal (and otherwise) disaster that is DCSS and the BOE, but the state requiring us to underwrite Gwinnett doesn’t help things.

  19. justwatch says:

    DeKalb Mom

    KMS has 18ish kids in each 6th grade, 4th and 5th have about 26. That is a huge difference from almost every other school in DeKalb.. And no, 6th graders across the county don’t get foreign language.

    I understand that you don’t like the changes at KMS. But across the system, students and teachers really are suffering much more than they are at KMS. At KMS, there are approximately 145 4th grade students who are served by 6 teachers (not including music, art and PE). At Austin, 3 teachers serve 100 kids. Does this make sense to you?

  20. wondering says:

    If there are only 18 kids in the 6th grade classes Kittredge, why are they not letting kids in from the waiting list?

  21. In watching the video from Monday’s meeting (click here if you want to view it)

    Dr Atkinson said that a ‘warm body’ count would be made on the 10th day of school and classrooms rebalanced. It seems that some schools have severely over crowded classrooms.

    Other board comments from the meeting: Jay also got very upset about Arabia and interrupted Don’s complaint that Arabia students receive special transportation, but Coralwood, IB and other programs do not. Dan Drake could not explain how they could accommodate transportation shuttles for everyone. (He has to follow what was approved by the board last year.) Don pointed out that the most vocal people tend to get what they want. Jay was so impressed with the Salem Middle School’s uniforms. Thought it improved students attitudes. He also complimented bus drivers. Nancy pointed out that class sizes should be the same at magnets as regular schools. Ms. March said absolutely. They will follow up after the ten day count. Dr Walker visited 7 schools the first day. Bouie, Canby, Towers, MLK and others. Pleasantly surprised. At Canby, someone borrowed a lawnmower to get the grass cut for day 1. Excited. Paul Womack asked for a new org chart by the end of August. Sarah says you need to look at AP and high achiever classes as they are small. Magnets have a wait list and are over-flowing because magnets do a great job and classes are full. Sarah didn’t get out today. She’s going to wait to visit schools once things settle down. Thanked teachers. Hopefully we will get relief for HS with 39 in a class. (She really rambles here…..)

    HR report (Dr. W-Smith): June 1 To June 21. This is identical to the report that was pulled last time. There will be more names on the Sept report. Atkinson says the system software was not reporting all resignations and retirements YTD. Included names and will manually check the YTD totals because the ‘computer’ isn’t calculating property. IT is working on it. She won’t bring it to the board until it’s accurate. Nancy wants a reconciliation by name and whether they were moved from the Central Office list to a school list. Disappointed that to date, hasn’t been able to get the info she keeps requesting. Also suggested that when they vote on things with HR implications that the actions include an itemized list as to who will be affected. Would like to know how their actions are implemented. Not happy with the slow HR reporting. Sarah says it’s critical to have up-to-date software. We should be able to go in at anytime and get whatever info we need. We’ve paid a lot for this — I”m shocked. We should just push a button and there it is! That’s how it used to be. Please attach a list of recommendations separately of the hires, retired, and fired and RIFd by the board. (All in all, the board is pleading for more HR info in a more timely manner.) Perrone pointed out the updated travel costs for superintendent (p 28-29 of budget report). June travel has not hit the books yet. Nancy closed with a sweet story about her child’s wonderful new kindergarten teacher. Many thanks to the solid teachers who carry on and do such a wonderful job for the children in DeKalb!

  22. Also, published allowable class sizes with the state waivers are:

    K (with para) 25
    grades 1-3 (no para) 26
    grades 4-5 (core subjects) 33
    grades 6-8 (core subjects) 33
    grades 9-12 (core subjects) 35
    early intervention (EIP) 21
    remedial (REP) 25
    gifted es 22
    gifted ms 22
    gifted hs 26
    alternative (without para) 23
    alternative (with para) 29

    ELL guidelines are a bit lower

  23. DS_K1975 says:

    Alot of people are still listed on 1st Class whose positions were cut, ie: Graduation Coaches.

  24. Bye bye says:

    Kms earns extra points because if all the gifted kids. All the positions that were not earned are gone.

  25. Concerned DeKalb Mom says:

    What defines a “gifted” class? My understanding about Kittredge is that all students are not classified as gifted students. So is it a percentage-type thing that keeps the Kittredge numbers down?

    And here is the issue with “average” class sizes…School A has 130 students in 4th grade. They are only “allowed” 4 teachers because, with their class sizes of 33 and 32, they are “legal.” But then there is School B, with 38 students in 4th grade. They can’t have only 1 teacher by law, so they have two teachers and 19 students per class.

    Yes, there are research papers that declare that class sizes “don’t matter.” But none of those researchers were comparing class sizes of 19 vs. 33. And herein lies the problem.

  26. Shelli says:

    I am a Dekalb county resident and homeowner. I have no children but a substantial portion of my property tax goes toward education.
    I have a good friend whose child is in his last year at the Coralwood School in Decatur. In the School Choice brochure, the Transportation was listed as: Attendance Area – General Education Students Only.

    Apparently, in the interim from the enrollment period and the start of the school year, this school was chosen to not provide any transportation to any but special needs/inclusion students.
    The parents were informed Saturday evening before starting school the following Monday.

    I understand because of the difficulty this has put on parents, that four children have had to be withdrawn already.
    My friend who works with me is also considering pulling her child from this excellent institution that he has attended until now because of the lack of transportation to the school and to aftercare programs.
    She and her husband both work full-time.

    I do not feel that this was handled well with the lack of prior notice so parents could coordinate and develop carpool solutions or choose to start their children in another school from the beginning of the year instead of creating stress by having to withdraw them and start them in another school.

    I really do not understand how the decision was made to limit the ability to attend this school as well. How many schools do not provide transportation? I had never heard that such a thing was possible and am very distressed.

  27. Ready to be done with DCSS says:

    Not sure where SCW is getting her “data” about small AP classes. Between my two students at Lakeside, they are in 5 AP classes. I asked them about the class sizes; they apparently range from 28 to 43 students. Of course there are not enough desks for that large number of kids. Even if there were, the room can not accomodate it.

  28. wondering says:

    @Shelli, the DCSS website says this:

    Does Coralwood have an attendance area?
    • No, Coralwood is not a neighborhood school; therefore, typically developing students are not eligible for

    So it is not that students are left without transportation; it is just that they only get county-provided transportation to their home school. If the parents choose to put their kids at a school outside their attendance area, they have to provide the transportation. This seems reasonable to me.

  29. Shelli says:

    That is not clear on their website, I only found one reference to that in a PDF on 8/8.

    Regardless, the Georgia DOE says there should be no difference:

    Do charter schools receive the same amount of funding as traditional public schools?
    Yes. According to GA Code section 20-2-2068.1(a), “the local board and the state board shall treat a conversion charter school no less favorably than other local schools located within the applicable local school system unless otherwise provided by law. The local board and the state board shall treat a start-up charter school no less favorably than other local schools within the applicable local system with respect to the provision of funds for instruction, school administration, transportation, food services, and, where feasible, building programs.

    Do charter schools have an attendance zone?
    Yes, charter schools define their own attendance zone within their contract.

  30. The Deal says:

    DSW, can you define gifted es, ms, and hs? High achiever magnets are not all gifted, so they wouldn’t qualify for these numbers. Are there any schools that have enough gifted to make an entire class that would abide by those numbers?

  31. justwatch says:

    Coralwood is not a charter school.

  32. justwatch says:

    And most charter schools dont’ provide transportation.

  33. RealWorldEducation says:

    They fired the academic coaches, then hired “data” coaches to do the same jobs. There are core classes in high schools hitting or getting near the max. You really can’t fit that many desks in a room. Thank goodness the air conditioning across the county is working. Not to mention active learning with small groups, the techniques teachers are forced to use with AC and other programs..try that with 35 in a small room.

  34. Sorry — we can’t. That would take some research and we don’t have time to do that. But, we are happy to print whatever you find out, as long as it is documented. You might start with the GaDOE. All we really know is that there are classes that are deemed ‘gifted’. We really don’t know the formula used to arrive at that designation. There’s also Advanced and General as well as AP (Advanced Placement) which are the same as AP classes nationwide, but a very different thing from an ‘Advanced’ core class. These all only apply to middle and high school. Confusing – we know.

  35. no name says:

    Terry @ August 15, 2012 at 8:24 asked “Update… have you noticed that there are no regular ED paras in the classrooms? They have all been forced to move into Special Ed classrooms and schools.”

    My understanding is that:
    (1) State law(s) require that Special Ed classrooms be staffed with teacher and paras.

    (2) DCS fired so many paras that all the remaining paras HAVE to be assigned to Special Ed classrooms so that the schools do not violate state law(s).

    (3) Ms. March was unaware of the Special Ed staffing requirements, so all summer long she and her minions in the central office were telling schools to use their paras for other things.

  36. no name says:

    DCS is issuing more Tax Anticipation Notes:

    Click to access dcsd-to-issue-tax-anticipation-notes.pdf

    “The DeKalb County School District passed a resolution to issue Tax Anticipation Notes (TAN) with TD Securities, the winning bidder. The amount of the TAN is $90 Million and has a net interest cost of 0.56%. The Tan will be repaid on December 28, 2012.”

  37. dekalbite2 says:

    @ byebye
    “Kms earns extra points because if all the gifted kids. All the positions that were not earned are gone.”

    Gifted can go to 22 if it is just gifted students in the class. However, more students can be in the class if there is an inclusion model (like Kittredge uses). It appears that they should be taking many more students off the waiting list.

  38. dekalbite2 says:

    @ concerned DeKalb Mom

    “And here is the issue with “average” class sizes…School A has 130 students in 4th grade. They are only “allowed” 4 teachers because, with their class sizes of 33 and 32, they are “legal.” But then there is School B, with 38 students in 4th grade. They can’t have only 1 teacher by law, so they have two teachers and 19 students per class.”

    Thank the Republican governors and legislature for this mess. Barnes set class sizes very low, and then told the superintendents to deal with it. Superintendents all over the state were upset, and swore they could not get along with so few admin and support staff. But Barnes said they had to use their budgets wisely and make sure class sizes were within the parameters the state set. That is the ONLY time in 40 years I’ve seen DeKalb’s Central Office shrink because they had to redirect the money back into the classrooms.

    As soon as Perdue came in, the class size restrictions were relaxed and they have gone up ever since. Perdue was for “local control” but look where that got classrooms all over Georgia – crowded (even before the recession when the money was rolling in – class sizes were steadily increasing – Look how many times Lewis and the BOE increased class sizes to pay for another highly paid non teaching department – read the BOE meeting notes to see his constant recommendations to cut teaching positions and increase class sizes while revenues were rising).

    Another thing Perdue did was let schools go back to “averaging”. If the class size for 4th and 5th was 28, averaging lets the schools take an “average” of the 4th and 5th grade classes. So the teachers in 4th grade could have 30 each, but the “average” was 28 because the 5th grade classes might be 25 each. So suddenly 30 was legal when 28 was the published class size. See how Perdue let them pack the students in. Perdue felt the superintendents and local BOEs were the best judge of their personnel needs, but anyone who has worked in the school system knows this is not going to work in DeKalb (and quite a few other systems as well).

    Deal needs to step up to the plate and lower class sizes and then tell the superintendents to “deal with it” if they want their state funding. They would soon find the “fat” to cut. They would have no other choice.

  39. no name says:

    The following is yet another blantant example of how incompetent Atkinson and March are.

    Back on July 16, a mere four weeks ago, Atkinson and March went to the board and attempted to get their approval to layoff more teachers. Here is the AJC article from then:

    Then, after a whole three weeks passed, DCS suddenly began posting multiple job OPENINGS for TEACHERS! Check out the job listings for yourself:

    A competent school administration would have hired all of its needed Teachers and Paras prior to the opening of school. Atkinson and March are so clueless that they were publicly saying that they were OVERstaffed when in fact they were UNDERstaffed.

  40. Shelli says:

    As I mentioned, I am not a parent and not that knowledgeable about the different kind of schools or the system. Seems to me if it is a public school, funding for transportation should be available – although I see now that is not the case if charter schools do not provide that (seems unfair). I understand now that Coralwood is a “Regional School” but as I said, it said that transportation was available in the school choice catalog for enrollment:
    (and has been provided in the past) and states in the FAQ document “Transportation is not provided for Regional School Choice Programs, Charter Programs or Montessori Programs if the student resides outside the attendance area of the school in which the program is housed.” (which implies that it is provided inside) but it also states that “The most current DeKalb County transportation policy will be followed for the School Choice Programs.” I do not see an *official* policy stating that transportation will not be provided. ( The only other policy comment I can find is on FAQ page: “The Board of Education policy is that transportation to a school will be provided to students who live outside of a one mile radius of their attendance area school.” And since the student is in the attendance area for Coralwood, this should apply.

    The issue is the parents were expecting transportation to be available based on the School Choice document for enrollment (and had it in the past) and weren’t told otherwise until the last minute…
    My concern is that this should have been handled better. And from my investigation, the DeKalb County transportation policy is not clear or easy to find.

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